Thus begins my four-month long excursion in La República Dominicana, and I am currently a lovely mess of enthusiasm and nerves. The thought “This will be very good for me” has rung thrice through my mind in these last 24 hours. And I’m not just referring to the fantastic beaches and waves, although the natural beauty here does rock me to the core. This lush ground has already begun to infuse some of its soul into mine, and that is very, very good.
I wish I had words for the grin on my face as I disembarked from the plane early this morning (literally 3am) to find myself caught up in a gaggle of boisterous Spanish voices – voices whose owners were clearly full of the zest of life, even at that ungodly hour. When we experience such unexpected, simple joy, we immediately understand how we ought to make others feel. The Dominicans – and this is unabashedly cliche, I know – have a real grip on the simple joy in the simply lived life. Stripping away life to its necessary components will be very good for me.
Already, I have been humbled. Not only is my grip on the Spanish language so weak that my blunders had Ricardo, our cab driver, chuckling the whole way here, but I am sure that his amusement with my inadequacies will be shared with many other of his countrymen as I continue to struggle through claiming “sí, hablo español, más o menos.” I am looking at copious amounts of copying verb charts and Duolingo-ing up a storm, although I can’t complain since all studies will commence under the glorious Dominican sun to the view of rolling, tropical pastures. Why nap all day when you could be learning a new language? Oh and also, I persisted for a grand total of 14min on my morning jog before surrendering to the heat. Gosh darn it. Adjusting to life in the big and little ways here will be very good for me.
Lastly, there is a pastoral quality to the entirety of life here that is wholly uncommon in the States. Chairs are always pulled out to the streets and from them reign eternal observers. I think first of our gatekeeper– a lanky, tan man who keeps a sleepy, yet mysteriously watchful, eye on the entrance into “Sunset Valley.” Side note: he is also quite the friendly and encouraging jogging companion, as I discovered this morning. Another small example, after some gloriously fresh seafood last night (that certain members of my family ended up regretting late last night), my dad slowly backed up our massive white van as a huddle of Dominican men looked on from their perch outside a restaurant. It was clear that this sort of gathering was a nightly occurrence as their experienced hands handled fat cigars and worn cards. I have already mentally collected a plethora of favorite characters that I could reference in this regard, but already it seems safe to gather that the Dominicans are generally not a hasty people. Slowing down here will be very good for me.
As the trials of travel are popular for showing the true colors of one’s traveling companions, likewise the curveballs bring out the usually concealed sides of ourselves. My all-encompassing travel advice? Always be in a good mood — as we all know, this involves a whole hell of a lot of “fake it ’til you make it.” 😉
Hasta lugeo, mis amigos!